Saturday, December 05, 2009

RE: A NEW HEADER FOR UO

The Unpopular Opinionator has not converted to Roman Catholicism--not yet anyway. However, I've never been closer to Rome than at the present.

Jesus' Messianic office is both a spiritual and a political office. His Ascension to rule over all things was an inheritance granted once he completed his earthly course of obedience, proving to be simultaneously the faithful Israelite, the faithful son of Adam, and the faithful Son of God.

The Son does not rule according to his divinity over creation by a "providential" reign and as man over a "redemptive" realm. The sphere of redemption encompasses the whole cosmos already, though manifested but partially in the present. We are living in the Age of Faith after all!

The Two Kingdoms conception of Christ's rule is an error derived from a faulty hermeneutical principle, the Law-Gospel distinction. Entirely absent from Scripture is a covenant of pure law. Likewise, a simple promissory covenant is nowhere to be found. Every biblical covenant is qualified by conditions of obedience. Luther was wrong.

The glory of the New Covenant is not that God removed the requirement of obedience as a condition to inherit eternal life. The glory of this new and better covenant is that it imparts the power to obey to all those who trust in Jesus' atoning sacrifice.

What is true for all men, everywhere & at all times, is that if they would come to God they must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Jesus is Lord.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Word of the Day: APHTHARTODOCETISM

(Greek aphthartos, “incorruptible”), a Christian heresy of the 6th century.

With Aphthartodocetism, the implications of Monophysitism (“Christ had but one nature and that divine”) were brought to a new extreme. This teaching claims that the body of Christ was divine, therefore incorruptible and imperishable. Still, Christ was free to will his sufferings and death voluntarily, which is also what he did.

The Aphthartodocetist doctrine was originally espoused by Julian, bishop of Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum, Turkey). His teaching was strongly opposed by Patriarch Severus of Antioch, who also was also a condemned Monophysite. Severus vigorously challenged Julian on the ground that the doctrine of salvation was meaningless unless Christ’s body was truly human. Their two parties emerged into a schism that would last until the 7th century.

Some historians believe the Byzantine emperor Justinian I proclaimed the new heresy in an edict of 564 and would have imposed it on the Eastern church but for his death the following year.

Aphthartodocetism found acceptance in the Armenian Church and was espoused by John Nelson Darby and other early dispensationalist writers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.


Adapted from the online Encyclopedia Britannica and LookLex Encyclopedia entries.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Quotation of the Day

Over at Blog and Mablog, an astute commenter named Alan had the following to say about Westminster Two Kingdoms (W2K) theology:

"At least the dispensationalists have the virtue of wishing Christ could be king right now-- while (conversely) the Hauerwas/Willimon types refuse the transformational impulse, but insist that though the gospel can't overcome the (evil) world, they're happy to die trying.

"The reformed dispensationalist approach-- c'est la vie-- seems oddly stuck between transforming and resisting the world. Their besetting temptation-- though doubtless not their goal-- is compromise with the world in the "already." Otherwise known as worldliness."

Discussing Norman Shepherd

For those interested in the on-going debate over justification," Darryl Hart's post "Easy Believism" provoked me to speak out in defense of Norman Shepherd in the comment section. Over the last few weeks, I have been carefully reading and listening to what Shepherd has to say. Consequently, I was able to present a fairly coherent picture of how Shepherd is able to remain true to Luther's insight of sola fide and the broad Reformed Tradition while expanding our understanding of faith and justification in light of biblical eschatology.

Look for a post in the upcoming days based on these comments.

While not following Shepherd in every respect, I believe he is as important as N.T. Wright as an insightful expositor of Scripture. I need to study more on the subject, but it presently appears that Shepherd has been even more successful in maintaining both realities of individual and corporate election/ justification.

In Shepherd's hands, the classical Protestant formulation of justification has been expanded in light of the fifth point of Calvinism, the Perseverance of the Saints, to read:

"Justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, in the way of righteousness alone."

This is a monumental achievement and every bit as significant as Martin Luther's achievement 450 years ago. Perhaps Norman Shepherd is the forerunner of a new Reformation on the horizon. May God grant it!

Tim Gallant Ponders the Land Promises to Israel

Back in July, Tim wrote a short post that asked some good questions:

1. We know that a whole host of Israelites have savingly believed God over the years, both before and after the advent of Christ.

2. We believe in the resurrection of the body, not an eternal state of disembodied “spirituality.”

3. Correspondingly, we believe in the renovation of the earth, just as we believe in the renovation of the body.

4. Surely a renovated earth would have geography, and since the renovation is a renovation of this earth, it seems at least plausible – nay, overwhelmingly likely – that the new earth will have the land of Canaan.

5. Since everyone has to live somewhere – why wouldn’t believing Israelites live in Palestine? Why should that be thought the least bit “strange”?

Check out Tim's article on the meaning of "all Israel" in Romans 11:26.

I would also add that national Israel is not reprobate. St. Paul makes clear that Israel "did not stumble so as to fall" (Rom. 11:11) and retains in an important sense "the adoption of sons, the covenants,...the promises, etc." (Rom. 9:4).

God's calling, election, and promises cannot fail.

Israel retains retains the title to all the promised blessings found in the OT. If they would pursue them by faith in their Messiah all the blessings would be granted.

As it is now, until Israel acknowledges her Lord Jesus she will never be secure in her own land.

I highly recommend historic premillennialist Barry Horner's fine book, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged (B&H Academic, 2007), for a thorough treatment of the subject.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Monarch as Supreme Judge

"There is a great difference between the 'form' and the 'content' -- or purpose -- of the State. The latter is its essential raison d'etre, its very soul. The former corresponds to the bodily form of a living being. The one can certainly not exist without the other; but in any sane hierarchy of values the soul occupies a higher place than the body.

"The essential purpose of the State, its 'content,' is rooted in natural law. The State is not an end in itself; it exists for the sake of its citizens. It is therefore not the source of all law (a claim that is still far too widely accepted), nor is it all-powerful. Its authority is circumscribed by the rights of its citizens. It is only free to act in those fields that are outside their free initiative. The State is therefore at all times the servant of natural law. Its task is to give practical effect to this law; nothing more.

"If the mission of the State is the practical realization of natural law, the form of government is a means by which the community attempts to achieve this aim. It is not an end in itself...

"There is one more point we must consider before we can answer the question of which form of government will best serve the community in the future. Generally speaking, democratic republics represent a regime dominated by the legislature, while authoritarian regimes are dominated by the executive. The judicial power has not had the primacy for a long time, as we have shown above. It found its earlier expression in the Christian monarchies. It is frequently forgotten that the true ruler has always been the guardian of law and justice. The most ancient monarchs -- the kings of the Bible -- came from the ranks of the judges. St. Louis of France regarded the administration of justice as his noblest task. The same principle can be seen in the many German "Palatinates," since the Count Palatine (Palatinus) was the guardian of law and justice delegated by the King- Emperor. The history of the great medieval monarchies shows that the legislative power of the king -- even of a king as powerful as Charles V -- was severely limited by local autonomies. The same is true of the ruler's executive function. He was not, in the first place, a law-giver or head of the executive; he was a judge. All other functions were subordinate, and were only exercised to the extent necessary to make his judicial function effective.

"The reason for this institutional arrangement is clear. The judge must interpret the meaning of law and justice, and to do this he must be independent. It is essential that he should not owe his position, his function, to any man. The highest judge, at least, must be in this position. This is only possible under a monarchy. For in a republic, even the highest guardian of the law derives his position from some other source, to which he is responsible and on which he remains dependent to some extent. This is not a satisfactory state of affairs. His most important task is not to pass judgment in actual legal disputes, but to stand guard over the purpose of the State and natural law. Above all, it is the task of the supreme judge to see that all legislation is in accordance with the State's fundamental principles, that is, with natural law. The monarch's right to veto legislation passed by parliament is a remnant of this ancient function...

"The hereditary character of the monarchial function finds... [i]ts deepest justification... in the fact that the hereditary ruler owes his position not to one or another social group, but to the will of God alone. That is the true meaning of the frequently misunderstood words, 'by the grace of God,' which always signify a duty and a task. It would be wrong for the ruler by the grace of God to regard himself as an exceptional being. On the contrary, the words, 'by the grace of God,' should remind him that he does not owe his position to his own merits, but must prove his fitness by ceaseless efforts in the cause of justice."

-Archduke Otto von Habsburg, The Social Order of Tomorrow (London: Oswald Wolff, 1958)


Justice and judgment are the habitation of Thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before Thy face.
Psalm 89:14

Friday, May 15, 2009

Prominent Internet Monarchist Baptized into the Faith

For those who follow monarchy on the web, it is a great joy to note that Mr. Theodore Harvey of Dallas, Texas was baptized and confirmed into the faith on April 11, 2009. He is now a parishioner at the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, one of the few remaining orthodox parishes in the Episcopal Church.

You may read Mr. Harvey's own announcement of the event here at his blog, Royal World.

Please join me in praying for Theodore's growth in grace as a Christian in the Anglican way.

Mr. Harvey's conversion leads me to consider the apologetic value of monarchism for Christianity. While the Christian faith is essentially trust in Christ and incorporation into His elect people, the Church, and is not necessarily tied to loyalty to an earthly monarch, I see preparatory value in acknowledging and submitting to the divinely-ordained authority of princes as a sign and exercise of godly humility.

The authority of kings does not derive from military might or the acclamation of the people; it rests upon God's sustaining favor alone.

In this day and age, when a man becomes convinced of the right of kings to rule, he is rejecting the primary theories of power that hold sway in our world. Majority rule (democracy) and force (dictatorship) can never establish right. Apart from faith these only signify the rebellious self-will of man.

Rule of law is touted in some sectors of Christianity as the legitimizing principle of government. This is an ahistorical anachronism perpetuated from the Enlightenment. Government preceded codified law. Instead, government exists wherever God has given a prince power and authority to rule. The existence of law implies the existence of a lawgiver and judge. Cosmically, this implies the rule of God. Temporally, it implies the existence of kings who propagate and ajudicate law under God in conformity with God's law.

A man who adopts the popular conceit that he is as much a ruler and judge as anyone else is a man who has not yet learned the humility of Christ. This is where the American spirit comes into direct conflict with the precepts of the Gospel and presents an actual obstacle to divine grace.

As St. Peter admonishes,

"Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

"Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

"For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

"Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

"Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

"For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

"For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

"Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

"For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."

(1 Pet. 2:13-25)

For these reasons I believe genuine submission to earthly authority is congruent and uniquely preparatory to genuine submission to Christ, "who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (1 Tim. 6:15).

Monday, March 30, 2009

De Regno Christi Returns

Dr. Bill Chellis has kindly invited me to continue as a contributor at his excellent group blog De Regno Christi that has recently been re-organized.

It is an honor to be included with several distinguished writers, historians, and theologians in this endeavor. So far, the list of contributors includes:

  • Gregory Baus, a Reformed Dooyeweerdian philosopher and social thinker;
  • Dr. Bradley Birzer, Russell Kirk Professor of American Studies History at Hillsdale College and a Roman Catholic; Pastor of Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church and co-editor of Semper Reformanda;
  • Dr. Bill Chellis, an Attorney and an ordained Minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church;
  • Dr. D.G. Hart, an author of many books on modern Protestant history in America,
  • Davey Henreckson, a "high church Anglyterian" and author of the excellent Theopolitical blog; and
  • Caleb Stegal, a country lawyer, writer, and former editor of the excellent The New Pantagruel.

Be sure to check out the discussion as I believe we'll soon be systematically examining specific propositions that concern the relation of Christ to culture.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Obama Frees Science from the Shackles of "Political Ideology"


On March 9th, at a ceremony in the Oval Office, President Obama signed an Executive Order reversing George W. Bush's 2001 ban on funding certain forms of stem cell research.

Here's how the Time article characterized it:


"The sigh of relief in labs across the country was almost audible. In Boston, Douglas Melton, co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, gathered his entire staff to listen to Obama's announcement and served cake in celebration. James Thomson, the University of Wisconsin scientist responsible for isolating the first human embryonic stem cells in 1998, flew to Washington at Obama's request to watch the signing in person.


"The President's decision does much more than expand funding for stem-cell research. It heralds a shift in the government's view of science, ushering in an era in which it promises to defend science — and the pursuit of useful treatments — against ideology. 'It is about ensuring that scientific data [are] never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology,' Obama said in his opening statement. (emphasis added)


"Without discounting the moral concerns that some Americans have about using embryos — which many consider to be fully realized human life — for scientific research, Obama said that moral values do not necessarily preclude the study of embryonic stem cells, particularly those obtained from the pool of 400,000 or so embryos currently stored in IVF clinics around the U.S., most of which would have been discarded. 'I believe we have been given the capacity and the will to pursue this research — and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly,' he said."


The article grudgingly admits that "New techniques in generating stem cells from skin cells may prove in coming years more efficient and reliable than using embryonic stem cells."


But the article goes on to say, "Monday's Executive Order is less about pitting the promise of one type of stem cell against another's and more about re-establishing the authority of science, of ensuring that any and every potentially useful avenue of research will be pursued to its end. As the President noted, the new policy will not guarantee stem-cell treatments for diabetes, Parkinson's or Lou Gehrig's disease. But it does guarantee a commitment to the kind of promising research that this Administration — and many people in the scientific community — believe must be followed." (emphasis added)


We should all be grateful for Time's impartial and "scientific" reporting of the facts.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Is a Constitutional Convention in the offing?

Back in December there was a World Net Daily article based on a warning issued by Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center. The article basically states that only two more states need to vote affirming the need for a Constitutional Convention and that our constitutional rights are threatened.

Well, I doubt it. Not that our constitutional rights are threatened--they are--but that the liberal majority would risk the trouble. Having an outdated constitution in place that is only selectively applied is a great asset to the ruling class. They can clothe themselves with the mantle of the venerability and authority of a hallowed system, claiming to be true to the internal logic of a living document, while moving the nation slowly and surely in a progressive direction. Why would liberals want to give this up? So far, it's worked very well for them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Entelechy

From the Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia entry

Entelechy (La. entelechia, from Gk. ἐντελέχεια, entelécheia) is a philosophical concept of Aristotle... From én (in), télos (end, or purpose) and échein (to have), Aristotle coined it to signify "having one's end within", therefore, that something's essential potential is being fully actualised.

In Aristotle's Metaphysics, the concept is contrasted with enérgeia. Entelécheia has been seen as a fullness of actualization which requires an ongoing or standing investment of effort in order to persist, as opposed to the energeia which is the activity of actualization not necessarily completed. Often entelechy is associated with form, and potency is associated with material which potentially has the form.

First entelechy is being in full working order (for example, the soul is the first entelechy of the body), and second entelechy is being in action. Motion or change can lead to an entelechy but also themselves can be seen as entelechies. Entelechy has even been seen as in some way perpetually "becoming itself" yet never reaching the goal of that "becoming" (and were it to do so, the entelechy would, by definition, cease to exist).

Something, for example wood, which is itself already actual, complete, and formed in its entelechy as wood, may be potentially something else, for example buildable into a house, and the entelechy of that potential for being built is the building process, the wood's being built into a house. By extension the building process is an entelechy of the wood too, though not of the wood just as wood, but just insofar as it is buildable into a house. The motion or change or process of change is the entelechy of the potentiality as potentiality (when still a potentiality). Once the buildable house is finished, "the buildable is no longer buildable," says Aristotle, and with the cessation of that potentiality for being built comes the cessation of its entelechy, the building process. The house builders move on to the next construction site and the next batch of wood.

Actual things in a sense are processes, so that entelechy and energeia (activeness), though contrastable, tend to extend to the same things. Some processes seem perpetual, and thus sometimes an entelechy seems a becoming which never reaches that becoming's final goal.

An individual's life can in many ways be regarded as beholden to various simultaneous and overlapping entelechies, for example, the life trajectories imposed by biological limitations, our mortality, the norms and expectations of family and/or society, and the individual's ego-ideal. Externally imposed entelechies and fantasized but unrealized entelechies can both be sources of frustration.

Societies can also be said to embody entelechies in their cultures; religious views, collective senses of entitlement, "mission" or "mandate" and even in their very languages. Societies/ cultures sensing that their entelechial trajectory is reaching its terminus (i.e., sensing they are in decline) or that this trajectory has been deflected from its "proper" path by illegitimate forces - either internal or external - may exhibit violently irrational or even self-destructive reactions.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What is Civilization? Part 2

Civilization Defined (Cont’d.)

As Russ has pointed out, Wal-Mart functions analogously to a city in our civilization, exercising an influence comparable in magnitude to a city such as New York, which contains several times more people (presently about 19 million). And, we are agreed that Wal-Mart is not a civilization for the same reason: Wal-Mart’s scope of activity is limited mainly to the economic sphere. Generally, corporations exist for one reason only: to provide economic profits for their shareholders. Economics may encompass a significant portion of what comprises civilization, but the concerns of civilization are broader.

Russ has emphasized the disparate interests that characterize many civilizations, but I’m arguing here that disparate interests are accidental properties, not essential to what civilization is. His definition has emphasized the differences and left out the commonality that unites people together in the first place. This is the social nature of man and the ultimate end of Society in general. In short, Russ’ definition—inadvertently perhaps—excludes the fact that civilization is essentially a developed form of Society.

Society and Civilization

What is Society then? As a Christian, I offer the following theological definition: Society is the fellowship of men with God. Society in its truest and broadest sense is the union and communion of men with God—and the two Great Commandments (love of God and love of neighbor) are its supreme laws. The eschatological goal of Society as created and superintended by God is the complete interpenetration of Earth by Heaven.

It is the case that many human beings have attempted to build their own societies apart from relationship with God. Yet, because God is inescapable, these attempts can never be wholly successful. The degree of success man has in forming a society excluding God is the degree of success he has in creating hell on earth.

Original Society, as God’s creation, has an intrinsic created purpose. Its completion is a glorified world—Heaven. Its dissolution--Hell. These are two very real "social" realities. At the end of this world’s historical process, all of humanity will be separated into two groups. The children of God will inhabit the one true Society. The children of the Devil will inhabit the Anti-Society, the chaotic darkness of absolute alienation from God as well as from men.

Which brings us back to the common bond necessary for binding individuals into collective unity. Civilization is Society advanced beyond primitive organization. It represents a step toward the perfection of Society despite historically accidental evils and imperfections that may exist. A civilization is a true society not because of, but despite, these flaws. It may be that civilization’s evils and imperfections may come to dominate its historical development. When this is the case, it can truly be said that civilization is tending away from its intrinsic (i.e., essential to created nature) purpose.

To conclude, the health or sickness of Society is relative to its proper end. This must be true of Civilization as well, since civilization is nothing else than a maturation of original Society. Civilization proper aspires to universal and eternal ends, seeking to perpetually (at least, as long as possible!) provide the greatest social good (happiness and security) for the greatest number of people. Therefore, Civilization on this view is not merely a descriptive category but a moral ideal.

The conceptualization of Civilization I’m advancing here obviously originates in the realist metaphysic I generally espouse. The following examples illustrate how this realistic metaphysic works. Communication is more than symbolic expression; symbols must actually signify truth in order to qualify as communication. Similarly, Art is more than a technique of communication; it must actually embody some principle of the Good, the True and the Beautiful. Genuine government embodies dominion, authority, and power. Genuine Society (i.e., that is true to its nature) tends toward the observance and advance of God's reign on earth.

Civilization is not a nominal descriptive category that describes particular features of society, but represents a developed stage toward perfection along the continuum that exists between Heaven and Hell. Civilization, when used properly as an ideal term, is not an arbitrary notion based on some imperfect society that existed once upon a time in history. Civilization, properly conceived, is oriented to the eternal state—the concrete ideal at the end of time that the nations seek and that Christians call New Jerusalem.

The Church's One Foundation

On January 8, 2009, Richard John Neuhaus, the prominent Lutheran then Catholic churchman and writer was taken home to his Lord. This hymn was sung at his memorial service.

The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is his new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

Elect from every nation, yet one o'er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth;
One Holy Name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.

Though with a scornful wonder we see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious, her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union with God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion with those whose rest is won.
O happy ones and holy! Lord, give us grace that we like them,
The meek and lowly, on high may dwell with thee.

***

Requiescat in pace.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

2 Peter 3:16

[Paul] in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things [i.e., of the coming of the Lord]; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Second to the Lord Jesus, St. Paul is probably the most studied and least understood teacher in all of Scripture. The unlearned and unstable wrest our Lord's statements to say no Christian should ever make judgments, take oaths, defend against aggression, render capital punishment, or use honorific titles. This is the hermeneutic of leftist radicalism: God is against Caesar, therefore rebellion against Christendom--and only against Christendom (!)--is justified.

Likewise, St. Paul is interpreted to dialectically set nature against grace, works against faith, Law against Gospel, and Christ's Mediation against the sacramental means of grace. Further, the Apostle is misconstrued to teach the separation of Jew and Gentile into two peoples of God, secret raptures, and every other effort calculated to tear redemptive grace from the fabric of creation.

These efforts will fail because it is not possible to ultimately deceive God's elect.

Against the Darbyites: The Spirit of Antichrist

_____,

I, too, have many obligations that would preclude spending the time to discuss at once all the issues that have been raised.

I also apologize for what you took to be a personal attack. (Is it really an apology when one fails to express regret for his offensive manner?) It is too easy to get carried away in the heat of writing. So, actually, I apologize for the counter-offensive manner of my response. At least a conversation has been initiated that has potential to bear fruit. Hopefully, we will be able to shake hands when the matter is concluded (which I hope will not be too soon).

As you well know, the personal is deeply entangled with the issues we’re discussing. It can hardly be surprising that it surfaces in these sorts of interchanges. I do not care to deny that I have a personal stake in discussions about the Brethren. How could I not? I was nurtured in that community for the first twenty-five years of my life. As I see it, the inherent dispositional flaw of Brethren actually did not originate with them and is far more prevalent in society than I realized when I made my original break from them almost fifteen years ago. The problem is deeper and more pervasive, as I will attempt to explain further in this letter.

And surely, ___, I’ve nothing against you personally. Why should I? I think I can count on one hand the number of real conversations we’ve had together, even though we are family. We simply don’t have the personal rapport that gives you the right to come into my “territory” and start blasting without certain social preliminaries. I’m willing to trade body blows with you any time we set the ground rules for the fight as sporting men, not as brawlers.

Some conventions I think we both can accept are:
  • The Primary appeal is made to God’s will as revealed in Scripture, not the authority of man, not even “spiritual men” (Surprising isn’t it?);
  • Secondary corroborating appeals may be made to historical evidences (including cultural contexts, opinions of eminent believers, etc.);
  • An attempt is made to fairly represent the opponent’s motivation and rationale; and
  • The strictures of Christian charity are to be observed at all times.

Feel free to modify or add to the list as you see fit.

I originally deployed a broad “scatter-shot” response in order to give you a fuller picture of the life-and-worldview I am operating within. There may be some similarities/ commonalities in our systems, and both may be broadly categorized as “Christian.” However, due to the extreme divergence that exists, one side is definitely *more* orthodox and the other is heretical. Yet, the Lord is gracious, and he knows the weakness of our frame, the intention of our hearts, and the extenuating circumstances that obtain. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

Now to respond to some specific points you raised. You said:

1) “It has been an interesting observation, that when individuals move on to other Christian communities, the often open hostility to those who seek to be gathered to the Lord's name alone.”

To begin with, it is hardly unique to defectors from Brethrenism to react strongly against the system they have rejected. It takes an incredible spiritual toll and expense of effort to traverse a paradigm shift. Family and friends are often alienated as a result. It may actually be a change for the worse (e.g., Obama’s platform for change), but you cannot deny the costs involved in such a fundamental transition.

I trust I have never directed an attack against any person for the simple reason that he desires to gather to the Lord’s name alone. Rightly construed, I agree with the sentiment. Just as I do not attack liberals because they want to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, or shelter the homeless I do not attack Brethren for wanting to gather to the Lord’s name alone. It is not what they affirm that I detest, but what they deny.

I appreciate the desire for Christian unity on the part of JND [John Nelson Darby] and the early Brethren. The original motivation is praiseworthy. However, Darby’s principle of unity—separation from evil—was an after-the-fact justification for the original meetings, which were clearly undertaken without divine authority (new revelation) or authentication (miraculous testimony).

Separation from evil (doctrinal or moral) is a purely negative principle. First of all, it assumes the possibility of cleansing one’s self from ALL doctrinally and morally corrupting associations. Do you realize how impossible this is? It means remote, static, unchanging capital “P” Perfection, in other words, total alienation from the company of our fellow men! [And don’t worry, I believe what St. Paul said in 2 Tim. 3:19ff., just not in a rationalistic way—see below.]

Second, to make an attempt at such a thing, does not magically or automatically place one in union with Christ! How could it? Faith (a positive thing) is the divine instrument for that, not our imperfect strivings. The Church, a concrete historical society of redeemed yet sinful people—not the invisible company of all the elect—was established at Pentecost, not in 1830 or whenever it was the Brethren started meeting. All the attendees of those first meetings had previously been baptized into Christ’s fellowship in the form of the existing churches.

Descartes, the great French philosopher, tried to completely eliminate the possibility of error by subjecting everything he knew to radical doubt. He feigned to purify his intellect of all opinions and pay attention to the first thing he knew to be indubitably true. From there he would build a system of indubitable truth—truth that could not be doubted. The attempt to sustain such a project is known as Rationalism in the history of philosophy.

Similarly, Darby thought he had sufficiently purged himself of all evil associations to arrive at the primordially pure association of Christ alone. In the process of doing so, Darby gradually disassociated himself from the actual company of Christ’s people on earth to commune with the solitary “Heavenly Man” a phantasm of the real Christ who is associated with His People, which is a corporate body on earth (“Saul, Saul, Why persecutes thou me?”).

The result of the Brethren defection was the formation of a new sect. And without a Rapture bailout, the historic fruits can be clearly seen. For instance, their highly anticipated expression of visible unity failed to materialize in any stable way. A multitude of small, private, contentious, and homogeneous groups fails to qualify as a public testimony to anything other than failure.

When JND tried to reconcile many years later with his old friend George Mueller, Mueller refused to see him. The moment for reconciliation had long past. Apparently, Darby never truly repented of his schismatic proclivities for he died in separation from his old compatriot and fellow dissident, William Kelly.

2) Again, you wrote: “The struggle of those in the 1830s to break away from the established church was very real and cost many of them everything in this world. Yet they were willing to do it, because they saw that Christ was not contained in the ordinances of men through religious rituals. But was instead operating through each and every believer who names the name of Christ. There is only one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. Anyone or system that would interfere with must be rebelled.”

Yes. At the beginning of the 1830’s there were established churches of Christ.

Yes, paradigm shifts are costly. Many religions have produced martyrs... Why do you not accept the authority of the ecumenical councils? The Church at that time was full of men who had suffered torments because of their faithfulness to the Savior. We call them “confessors” because they confessed Christ under duress of physical torture. Orthodox Christians regularly endured persecution in various parts of the world throughout the pre-medieval period. Many of these confessors became popes, bishops, and founders of religious orders.

True, Christ is not contained—as in circumscribed—by what you term “ordinances of men.” God is perfectly free to work alongside normal means he has established. But where has he placed his Name and his promises? Is the Church an ordinance of man? Is ministerial ordination an ordinance of man? Are Baptism and the Eucharist ordinances of man?

Away with this unbelief! The God who created creaturely things, who has a stake in the world he created—after all, Jesus gave his flesh for THE LIFE OF THE WORLD (Jn. 6:51)—employs means to bring his power to bear in the world. Things, created material things, bear His grace. People bear his grace. The love of God radiates through every charitable act performed in His name. This is true of the regular ministry of the church or more informal acts of private Christian charity.

You say that anything that “interferes” with the sole mediation of Christ is to be rebelled against. By “interference” I suppose you mean every person or instrument that is conceived to channel particular graces to individuals. Do you see how faulty this is? Does not the Gospel come except through preachers who have been sent to preach (Rom. 10:14-15)? Did I not learn of Jesus on my mother’s knee? Do I not read a collection of writings that have been preserved and transmitted to me from others? Does not the kindness of Jesus come to me in the form of a cup of cold water offered in His name? Does not the Holy Ghost teach me of Christ? (I.e., The Person of the Holy Ghost is distinct from the Person of the Son.)

What is this rationalistic “mediation” of which you speak? Your conception is some kind of ahistorical, anti-social, anti-material, Gnosticism. The Book of Hebrews expounds what Christ’s Mediation truly means (Heb. 7-10). It means the royal, High-Priestly MINISTRY he undertakes between God, on one hand, and all the men he desires to save, on the other (Cf. 1 Tim. 2:4-6).

It means there is no salvation through any other than Jesus Christ, but it places no limit on the number of agents that participate in His ministry or instruments He may employ to channel the benefits procured by His redemptive Sacrifice.

Faith itself is a specially created instrument or medium for the application of these graces in time!

We are not brains in a vat, receiving direct communications from a Supreme Brain. We are created persons situated in a particular time and place, a particular context. It’s time to accept the fact that the world is fallen, but that God is active and has not abandoned the world, His Creation. It’s time to accept the fact that Christ is perfectly able to sustain His historical Church with all her sins and imperfections till the end, when He shall at last purify her completely of every spot and wrinkle.

3) You said: “You make a charge of Docetism as held by Darbyites. I do not know who you are referring too or precisely what, but regardless, the scripture clearly spells out that Christ is in heaven as a man, i.e. the first born/fruits. We too shall be like him in physical form when we too are present in glory. We shall have a body that is suitable for heaven, both physically and spiritually.”

JND was much too smart to be caught teaching straightforward Docetism. I said his doctrine of Christ tended toward Docetism. And, it should be plain by now what concerns I have about this tendency. I have attached a paper by F.F. Bruce (who was an eminent Open Brethren biblical scholar) entitled “The Humanity of Christ”, originally published in a 1973 publication of the Journal of the Christian Brethren Research Fellowship. The paper will provide you with an overview of the issues involved.

Also, I’m reading a pamphlet by JND entitled, “The Sufferings of Christ”, from which I will be able to demonstrate his heterodoxy...

You... are called to a higher standard through the good name of Christian. You should not disappoint those who were tortured and martyred, the very same who built Christian civilization for your benefit. This Civilization has been under heavy assault from within by the revolutions that began in the 17th Century with the regicide perpetrated under Cromwell. The sexual revolution is but the latest of these assaults. The spirit animating these rebellions, which is none other than the spirit of Antichrist, is that spirit that denies Christ came in the flesh to save the flesh from its corruption (1 Jn. 4:1-6; Jn. 6:51; cf. Jn. 16:33; 17:22-23).

[Here the letter concludes.]

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Unique Theological Contributions of Hebrews

  • Only Hebrews expounds the NT Church's understanding of Melchizedek.
  • No other NT writer calls Jesus a priest or titles him a High Priest.
  • No other NT writer develops the last will and testament character of the New Covenant.

Against the Darbyites: Excerpts in defense of Lent, Church authority, and the Church's indefectibility

Yes, Lent...it's the forty days of preparation before Easter. It's a penitential season marked by abstinence and fasting for those of us who "regard the day" as our fathers in the faith have done for countless generations.

...I'm glad you're willing to stick around and have a serious conversation, ___. Welcome. I'm surprised Brethren so-called admit the necessity of confession. First John 1:9 prescribes the confession of sin for both forgiveness and purification of sins. I only recall an emphasis on psychological alleviation after initial conversion, since supposedly we've been forgiven for all our sins--even those we haven't yet commited. Once saved, always saved--right? Brethren argue that any post-conversion alienation we experience due to sin is merely psychological since we have been reconciled to God and guaranteed Heaven whether we actually persevere or not.

This is not the biblical view. I believe St. John when he says we confess in order to receive judicial forgiveness and moral purification. I believe the Lord Jesus when He tells us to pray "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." I believe Him when He says only those who love, forgive, and provide restitution will be loved, forgiven, and restored. Without works, faith is dead.

I believe the Bible when it says only those who persevere to the end will be saved. (Of course, I affirm the necessity of grace--the indwelling Holy Spirit's effectual working--for this). I believe the Bible when it says our Lord gave the Apostles authority to remit and retain sins. I believe the Bible when it says the Apostles were commissioned to baptize and disciple the nations. Therefore, I believe there is a priestly, pastoral, ruling and teaching authority in the Church associated with offices that were established from the beginning.

All of these offices exist by virtue of Christ's Royal High Priestly ministry that He exercises perpetually for us. Gifts that are practiced without the authority of an office are out of order. A personal relationship with Jesus outside of a legal covenant structure is an illicit relationship. One cannot have Jesus as his Savior if he does not also accept Him as his Lord (King and Master).

Because of Christ's faithfulness, His Church will not fail. Perhaps parts of it can be cut off, but the whole can never be destroyed. The gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Only those who agree with Korah's rebellious spirit (Jude 11; Num. 16:3) are deluded enough to believe that the entire Church fell away in the apostolic period. The Revelation to St. John (the last NT prophecy to be committed to writing) demonstrates that at least seven churches in Asia had not completely fallen away. St. Paul had already been executed by this time (we know this from Church tradition and only Church tradition). [Explanation: Darbyites believe the Church fell away as a public testimony to the Gospel and the unity of the Body in the apostolic period.]

We possess writings by contemporaries of the Apostles, men that were personally discipled by them and martyred. There is much of value in the writings of the Fathers. We read Holy Scripture in light (especially) of what the Holy Spirit taught them concerning the doctrines of God (the Trinity) and Christ (wholly God and wholly man, without confusion or separation) through the holy scriptures they were given the privelege to preserve, collect, and canonize by ecclesiastical authority.

I am prepared to demonstrate that the faith of the Church Fathers is in full conformity with the original deposit of Scripture, while acceding to the reality that their understanding was imperfect in many areas. It was given to later generations to flesh out the teaching of Scripture on other matters.

Anyway, I wasn't originally referring to the Church Fathers. I was referring to all the fathers in the faith that connect us to the first generation Church through an unbroken line of historic succession.

The Church is not the United States. The United States does not have Christ's guarantee that it will be preserved until the end of time. However, like He prayed for St. Peter, Jesus prays for us that our faith will not fail.

Postscript: Because there is disciplinary authority in the Church to pastor Christian disciples, prescribed feasts and fasts have been observed since the earliest times. The OT church had its own festivals and penitential seasons. The NT church has its correlative observances in light of Christ's coming and accomplished work of redemption. For the Christian, all things (including times) are holy but there is variation between them. Because divine goodness is multifaceted, not all times are the same. For example, Sunday is different from all the other days of the week.

To deny we should ever fast or feast in anticipation/ commemoration of significant redemptive events is basically the error of denying there are appropriate times for communal joy and sorrow. There is a time to mourn and a time to rejoice. To say it's pointless for Christians in general to engage in collective repentance is to say that collective repentance is pointless.

Of course, you Brethren deny the collective integrity of the Church on earth. In fact, anything having to do with material things/ the body is suspect because it's not spiritual enough. Ever heard of Docetism? John Nelson Darby's doctrine of Christ's heavenly humanity is definitely docetic in tendency.

Unfortunately for your theories, fasting is New Testament practice: Jesus, the disciples, and St. Paul all fasted. When was the last time you ever fasted, if ever?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What is Civilization?

Russ Smith, my friend and fellow parishioner with whom I have debated monarchy in the past, provided an interesting challenge to a conventional use of the term “civilization.” In the good ol’ days, especially before colonialism became a bad thing, terms like “civilization” and “civilized” carried a moral connotation that implicitly judged all other human societies against the superior standard of western Civilization. Russ objects to this sort of Eurocentrism, and wants to reserve the term to a technical use that denotes a particular form of social organization.

A Confusion of Categories?

Russ writes, “the term ‘civilization’ is a description of a particular type of order… this view of civilization demands that the term be value-neutral… The problem with using the term ‘civilized’ in both a descriptive and evaluative sense is that it blurs that distinction between what all civilizations must share and the particulars that set them apart from each other… ‘civilized’ is properly a category of order… [not] a category of justice.”

To be clear, Russ does not object to Eurocentrist language because he is a cultural relativist. He clearly wants to call some civilizations better and others worse. Russ is concerned that “the [moral] standard of evaluation be external to the civilization in question and objective.” I share with Russ this concern that we not conflate the ideal with an imperfect historical instance.

Yet, as a Christian who accepts the biblical revelation, I would not characterize the antitheses between Greek-Barbarian and Jew-Gentile (under the old covenant) the same way. The Greeks were never the chosen people of God, but the Hebrews were. Furthermore, the Jewish order (c. 2000 B.C. - A.D. 70) was the historical instantiation of the Kingdom of God. I would further say that Christian civilization has succeeded OT Jewish civilization as the present social instantiation of God’s Kingdom. In this present phase of the Kingdom, the locus of order has moved from a national religio-political center (Earthly Jerusalem) to a universal religio-political center (Heavenly Jerusalem).

As something of a Christian Platonist, I have no problem with saying that a particular thing can participate in an ideal without being absolutely identical to the ideal itself. As something of a Christian Aristotelian, I can say that something can be in the process of actualizing its potential or achieving its perfection without being perfect. As a Christian who confesses the communion of the saints, I can say that the historic Church Militant is presently identified with the Church Expectant and will on the Last Day become the Church Triumphant, yet there is only one Church.

It may be that the present historic Church is sinful, incomplete and imperfect. The eschatological Church will be spotless and perfect. Without a realistic metaphysic of identity guaranteeing continuity, there would be (at least) three separate churches. However, because there is one Lord who has one Body, there is one Church (Eph. 4:4-5). In Christ all things have their being (Col. 1:17) and the Church being his fullness (Eph. 1:23) is one.

Civilization Defined

Returning to the question at hand, “What is civilization,” Russ has offered a working definition of his value-free notion of civilization. Russ says that civilization is “a way of ordering groups of people that are too large to be managed as individuals.” Developing his thought further, Russ explains that this means that the disparate interests that inevitably arise in a large population must lead to a reduced degree of homogeneity. Consequently, impersonal management techniques must be developed to neutrally arbitrate between the differences. Now, I’m sure Russ does not want to be held too strictly to this definition, and he is free to offer a fuller and more nuanced definition any time he wants.

Because my definition of civilization is assuredly not his, I’d like to briefly consider the four elements of Russ’ proffered definition: large population, disparate interests, reduced homogeneity, and impersonal management technique. Further, I’d like to consider whether these elements are as value free as Russ suggests.

As far as population goes, Russ has indicated that some sort of “civilization barrier” is broken when a population grows larger than a moderately sized town. So, apparently the rules of civilization come into play when we deal with groups composed of several thousands to several hundreds of millions. That’s quite a range!

Last year, Wal-Mart the largest company in the world, employed about 2,055,000 employees. The population of ancient Egypt (c. 2000 B.C.) was this size. Wal-Mart employs people of every age, sex, race, class and religious persuasion. In order to manage their employees, Wal-Mart executives employ impersonal management techniques in the form of human resource policy. So, according to Russ’ definition, it would seem that Wal-Mart is a civilization!

But, of course Russ doesn’t think Wal-Mart is a civilization, and neither do I. The definition we have been considering is incomplete. In addition to a large population and all that comes with it, a particular human society must possess an additional quality that sets it apart as a civilization. This quality must be some general interest or purpose that binds its people into a unity. And this common purpose must be able to trump any special interest that might threaten the integrity of the whole.

(To be continued…)

Conservative Spam

Last week, I was listening to Dennis Prager discuss the bank bailouts and economic stimulus packages that have been railroaded through Congress lately. During the discussion, one of the studio personnel related a quotation from an 18th century writer by the name of "Tyler."

The quotation basically intimated that all democracies must ultimately fail because voters will eventually discover they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. For obvious reasons, I was intrigued by the quotation and decided to look it up. Maybe Tyler had written other good things.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered "Tyler's" quotation is a conservative urban legend that has circulated by email since the Bush-Gore 2000 presidential race but is actually decades old. The quotation, allegedly from Alexander Tyler's Fall of the Athenian Republic, read:

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts (or "largesse") from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.

According to Wikipedia, the supposed author to whom this quotation is attributed was Alexander Fraser Tytler (d. 1813), a Scottish lawyer and writer who lived at the time our Republic was founded. There is no record that Tytler ever wrote a book entitled The Fall of the Athenian Republic. In reality, however, the quotation is from several sources. Read this article by Loren Collins for more information.

From Wikipedia:

The passage actually comprises two quotations, which didn't begin to appear together until the 1970's. The list beginning "From bondage to spiritual faith" is commonly known as the "Tytler Cycle" or the "Fatal Sequence". Its first known appearance is in a 1943 speech "Industrial Management in a Republic" by H. W. Prentis, president of the Armstrong Cork Company and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers. The quote appears to be original to Prentis. No original author can reliably be determined for the first paragraph.

It is possible that whoever first made the statement [in the first paragraph] was paraphrasing or drawing a conclusion from a different quotation by Tytler. So, what did Alexander Tytler actually say?

The real statement reads:

It is not, perhaps, unreasonable to conclude, that a pure and perfect democracy is a thing not attainable by man, constituted as he is of contending elements of vice and virtue, and ever mainly influenced by the predominant principle of self-interest. It may, indeed, be confidently asserted, that there never was that government called a republic, which was not ultimately ruled by a single will, and, therefore, (however bold may seem the paradox,) virtually and substantially a monarchy.

(From Bartleby's Dictionary of Quotations)

I happen to agree with the substance of both quotations. The apocryphal quotation lacks the authority of a single author, and cannot be considered a prophetic statement about the course of the American experiment.

However, the "Fatal Sequence" seems logical--almost a historical law-- and examples of it are plentiful in history. Also, it would be an useful historical inquiry to determine whether in every historical democracy has degenerated because of loose fiscal policy. Is it the case that the citizenry of democracies will invariably vote for funds to benefit themselves and/ or their own interests without regard for the long term consequences?

Finally, the actual quotation by Tytler, suggesting that in fact no true democracy has ever existed, is an important point. There is no such thing as the "will of the people." There can only be compromise resolutions between whatever interests have representation. If in fact a general will does not exist, what single will actually does rule? Perhaps, the single will is constituted by a succession of overriding impulses that characterize the national mood at particular times [e.g., national self-determination, egalitarianism, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the market, the preservation of the union, democratic populism, civil rights, equal preference satisfaction (i.e., freedom of choice), etc.].

And if no single will actually governs U.S. policy, could it be that we are being led in a direction--toward an end--that has actually been chosen by nobody? Are we so dedicated to a theoretically perfect system of checks and balances that we have accepted a simulacrum of actual government in place of the real thing--concrete authority, principled policy, and just judgment?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Vatican: bishop's apology on Holocaust not enough

The Vatican requires that Bishop Williamson disavow his views, not "apologize" for causing other people to be offended. But it doesn't matter. About 90% of those who heard the original story will continue in their belief that the Catholic Church has reinstated a Holocaust denier. Why do you suppose this is?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Muslim woman arrested for arranging the rape of dozens of women in order to recruit suicide bombers

A few weeks ago, my friend and fellow parishioner Russ Smith alerted me to the story. There aren't too many stories more horrific than this one.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

It's a Man's Man's Man's World

On February 16, 1966, James Brown recorded the greatest R&B ballad of all time. The Godfather of Soul's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" has subsequently been covered by several major popular singers such as Cher, Celine Dion, and Seal. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it #123 in the magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of all Time. And though the magazine says it was Brown's "abject singing" that made the song's "almost biblically chauvinistic" lyrics sound "genuinely humane," I'd have to say Brown sung the way he did because he believed what he was singing about:

This is a man's world
This is a man's world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing
Without a woman or a girl

You see man made the cars
To take us over the road
Man made the train
To carry the heavy load

Man made the electric lights
To take us out of the dark
Man made the boat for the water
Like Noah made the ark

This is a man's, man's, man's world
But it wouldn’t be nothing
Nothing without a woman or a girl

Man thinks of our little baby girls
And our baby boys
Man makes them happy
'Cause man makes them toys

And after man makes everything,
Everything he can
You know that man makes money
To buy from other man

This is a man's world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing
Not one little thing
Without a woman or a girl

He's lost in the wilderness
He's lost in bitterness
He's lost,
He's lost….

Right now, I'm reading George Gilder's Men and Marriage. The book is an absolute masterpiece; I can't put it down. Here's an extended quotation:

"In the man's desire, conscious or unconscious, to identify and keep his progeny is the beginning of love. In a civilized society, he will not normally be able to claim his children if they are born to several mothers. He must choose a particular woman and submit to her sexual rhythms and social demands if he is to have offspring of his own. His love defines his choice. His need to choose evokes his love. His sexual drive lends energy to his love and his love gives shape, meaning, and continuity to his sexuality. When he selects a specific woman, he in essence defines himself both to himself and to society. Every sex act thereafter celebrates that definition and social engagement.

"Without a durable relationship with a woman, a man's sexual life is a series of brief and temporary exchanges, impelled by a desire to affirm his most rudimentary masculinity. But with love sex becomes refined by selectivity, and other dimensions of personality are exchanged and developed. The man himself is refined, and his sexuality becomes not a mere impulse but a commitment in society, possibly to be fulfilled in the birth of specific children legally and recognizably his. His sex life then can be conceived and experienced as having specific long-term importance like a woman's [i.e., woman naturally bear children while men do not].

"Obviously, the most enduring way to make this commitment is through marriage. Yet, because sexual liberals deny the differences between the sexes, their explanations of why there are marriages and why marriage is needed and desired ignore the central truth of marriage: that it is built on sex roles...

"As a social institution, marriage transcends all individuals. The health of a society, its collective vitality, ultimately resides in its concern for the future, its sense of a connection with generations to come. There is perhaps no more important index of the social condition. It is the very temperature of a community. A community preoccupied with the present, obsessed with an immediate threat or pleasure, is enfevered. A social body, like the human body, can run a very high fever for short periods in order to repel a specific threat or to meet an emergency, a war or domestic crisis. But if it finds itself perpetually enfevered, it begins to run down and can no longer provide for the future. Its social programs can fail to work, its businesses can fail to produce, its laws can become unenforceable. The will and morale and community of its people can founder. A society, apparently working well, can stand impotent before its most important domestic and external threats and opportunities.

"The sense of social vitality and balance does not 'just happen.' In civilized conditions it is love, marriage, and the nurture of children that project a society into the future and make it responsible for posterity... [I]n general it is only through love for specific children that a society evokes long-term commitments from its members.

"That is why the social temperature of single men is so high--why they end up so often being sent to war or jail or other institutions, and why they burn out so young. A society does not run into real trouble, however, until its culture begins to adopt the unmarried male pattern, until the long-term commitments on which any enduring community is based are undermined by an opportunistic public philosophy. The public philosophy of the unmarried male focuses on immediate gratification: 'What did posterity ever do for me?' A society that widely adopts this attitude is in trouble.

"The power of woman springs from her role in overcoming these socially and personally self-defeating ways of men...

"The ideology of the sexual liberationists sees society as a male-dominated construct that exploits women for the convenience of men. In evidence, they cite men's greater earning power, as if economic productivity were a measure of social control rather than of social service. But it is female power, organic and consitutional, that is real--holding sway over the deepest levels of consciousness, sources of happiness, and processes of social survival. Male dominance in the marketplace, on the other hand, is a social artifice maintained not for the dubious benefits it confers on men but for the indispensible benefits it offers the society: inducing men to support rather than disrupt it...

"Any consideration of equality focusing on employment and income, therefore, will miss the real sources of equilibrium between the sexes. These deeper female strengths and male weaknesses are more important than any superficial male dominance because they control the ultimate motives and rewards of our existence. In childbearing, every woman is capable of a feat of creativity and durable accomplishment--permanently and uniquely changing the face of the earth--that only the most extraordinary man can even pretend to duplicate in external activity.

"Women control not the economy of the marketplace but the economy of eros: the life force in our society and our lives. What happens in the inner realm of women finally shapes what happens on our social surfaces, determining the level of happiness, energy, creativity, morality, and solidarity in the nation" (pp. 14-18).

As James Brown sang,

This is a man's world
This is a man's world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing
Without a woman or a girl!

Brown, himself, must have known very well the futility of the pleasure-seeking male life. After all, he made a career out of distilling male lust into music for the dance hall. Perhaps the pathos of Brown's performance arose out of an internal conflict between love and lust, between faith and temptation. But I'm no psychologist, and I know next to nothing about James Brown's life except that he was married four times and probably had several illegitimate children.

The point is not to crap on James Brown, it's to highlight a perennial human problem. You see, when temptation enters Eden and the serpent dangles (no pun intended!) the promise of divinity before her, woman is given a choice. She has a choice to take the fruit or refuse it until she may legitimately possess it. If she is not deceived by the promise of instant godhood (remember, there is a link between sex and spirituality--e.g., marriage is a "mystery" of Christ and the Church) and witholds herself until the proper time, eternal life (i.e., the perpetuation of the human race) is assured. But if she takes the fruit prematurely, disaster is inevitable. What she thinks will be pleasure enjoyed with her man turns instead to her undoing. Man will begin to care more for the fruit than for her. The fruit is actually a distraction from the real thing, for Woman is the authentic meaning of Man's natural life. Woman shall be saved through childbearing, as the apostle says, and man is saved through woman.